LAUREL, Md. – Even when NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is in & # 39; bending one thing in the Kuiper Belt, the mission team already has a & # 39; Thinking of the second time that may have been in the 2020s.
New Horizons will fly with MU69 2014, on which Ultima Thule, on January 1, & # 39; making its nearest way of about 3,500 kilometers at 12:33 a.m. East. The spacecraft will not be in contact with Earth during the nearest approach but will send "health data" to several hours, to reach Earth at 10:29 a.m. East.
The Ultima Thule service runs according to its & # 39; plan, project 31st December said. "The space space is on a course, it's healthy, it looks at how we talk," said Alan Stern, chief researcher New Horizons, at the Johns Hopkins Network in Active Physics news conference here, December 31st.
Although the focus is near a term for his / her mission; Ultima Thule travels, project officers have begun to think about the chance to go. adding New Horizons to another subject, as found in the Kuiper Belt, based on the power levels of its power; thermisotope thermometer generator and hydrazine fuel used to move.
"We have power and fuel to run this bird in the mid 2030s, possibly longer," said Stern at the end of 28. "What is the science team and the mission team for after we got the data back from Ultima to suggest NASA explore the outer parts of the Kuiper Belt. "
One thing is to find a Kuiper Belt thing that's possible for New Horizons to fly. Ultima Thule had been looking for a huge effort to use Teileascop Hubble Space, with sciences found in 2014. Only Hubble and New Horizons have just seen the item.
"To look for it we'll use all the tools that can be done," said Stern Dec. 30 of having a & # 39; Look for another Kuiper Belt in the reach of New Horizons. That includes future telescope on the ground, Hubble and the Spanish Webcam James Webb in the future, he said.
That also includes New Horizons itself, and # 39; using a sports space device called Long Range Exhibition Imager, or LORRI. Stern noted that LORRI Ultima Thule first saw in August, at a speed of more than 160 million kilometers. The camera could see the ball at even greater speed, he noted. "We can use that camera to find other things that go beyond our way by distance," he said.
This requires the use of new ways to use camera, however. Hal Weaver, a scientist of his project for New Horizons, said changes to his / her changes were changed; LORRI flying software has taken hundreds of pictures and then combine them, and only return the image together.
"The big record has been able to restore data," he said, with the low level available at the long distance of the Livestock vessel from Earth. "We can not take thousands of pictures and add them all back."
That idea, which the weaver put in, is still in the "board development" stage of development. "We need to focus Ultima Thule right now," he said. "But just after the spring, we will jump on this problem."
Although Ultima Thule's plans were planned years ago, flyby would not be allowed in the future but only a few months ago if the item has been found by LORRI. "It will only be seen six months ahead," said Stern. "We need to do a normal method of handling and warning a warning if we find it on board a spacecraft."
The project also needs NASA to approve an extended mission for spacecraft. New Horizons is currently working on one broad mission for Ultima Thule to run through 2021 at a cost of $ 81 million. That's plus the $ 720 million cost of the main aim of New Horizons for Pluto flying, running through 2017.
Stern said the project will be preparing a proposal for another broad mission in mid 2020 for the latest latest study of the planet's science initiatives. Working on that recommendation, he said, a & # 39; starting in mid-2019. "I do not worry about time limits," he said, as New Horizons in Kuiper Belt maybe until the end of the 2020s and works for even longer.
But first, he stressed, the ultimate Thule flyby. "I had been trying to keep people thinking about that," he said about a second time, "and to focus on Ultima."